While fighting the Tussock Fire south of Crown King, 49 personnel, including members of the Hotshot Crew, the division supervisor, and several others, found themselves in a shitty situation.
The Tussock Fire started on the afternoon of May eighth, approximately eight miles southwest of Crown King, Arizona. There were a total of 226 personnel, including a type 1 hotshot crew assigned to the fire. Among them, 49 personal started feeling extremely ill.
According to an incident report filed in the Incident Review Database by Stu Rodeffer on behalf of the Southwest Incident Management Team 2, several personnel contracted an unknown virus and “experienced bouts of vomiting and explosive diarrhea.” Ten hours after the first incident was reported, an additional 22 people came forward with symptoms.
The sudden spike in unwanted bowel movements and vomit sent authorities in a scramble to contain the combustible backflow, including state and county health officials. Crew members were quarantined and given intravenous fluids to stay hydrated. New food was brought into the camp, and social distancing was enforced.
On Friday, May 22, county officials confirmed it was Norovirus, a highly contagious viral infection. By that time, no more cases were reported, and everything seemed solid. Coincidentally, crews were finally able to extinguish the fire.
According to the CDC, Norovirus is responsible for about 50% of foodborne illnesses. Common symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, and in extreme cases, dehydration and death. The typical recovery time is 1-3 days.
The Tussock Fire burned 5,546 acres and attained 100% containment on May 24, 2021. The fire is believed to be human-caused and is still under investigation. It’s unclear if the “explosive diarrhea” contributed to the blaze. When contacted, authorities declined to comment.